Support needed before stadium can be built

T By Hafidz Ismail

the debate surrounding a new stadium for the Gophers football has often swirled into a discussion of desires rather than needs. Although I agree Minnesota is the only Big Ten University without its own football stadium on campus, I have yet to understand the need to change the home of Minnesota football from the Metrodome to a campus facility.

We need to scrutinize the financial issues of this decision. Can the University really afford to build a new stadium? In the long run it will eventually bring greater income to the University’s athletics program, but at what cost? The recent deficit in the state’s budget carries serious weight in discussing this issue, as concerns over the possibility of tuition increases already blooms throughout campus. The University is founded on the basis of providing education and intellectual exchange, and reduction in research and academic funding will not help the University provide high-quality education to members of the Gophers community. Academics should be on top of the priority list for improvement, not an on-campus football stadium that will not increase the University’s prestige comparatively with other Big Ten schools.

Consequently, having a stadium right in the heart of campus also draws other concerns, even if the University agrees to build it. What is the cost? The initial proposal had the stadium at the Huron lots, which would require demolition and resurfacing before actual construction works could commence. Upon completion, issues like campus parking and traffic would also arise. Please bear in mind that Gophers fans are not entirely made up of students, but also alumni and the general public. Parking is already insufficient on campus, and a greater volume of traffic would amount to a higher degree of congestion – a nuisance and definitely an inconvenience not only to the campus community, but also to neighborhood residents.

But the claim that an on-campus facility would enhance student support and school spirit appalled me the most. Do we really need a new facility to make us prouder of our football team and our maroon and gold culture? The fundamental element missing from the equation is not a new stadium, but self-enthusiasm in school pride and spirit. I still think if each University student is really passionate about the football team, there would have been no empty seats at the stadium. Facilities do not create the collegiate atmosphere, campus communities do. It is the students who must first demonstrate that even without an on-campus stadium, the Gophers football team will still receive strong support from its fans.

But again, as University junior Jon Waibel said in his Dec. 6 letter, “Stadium debate,” while the cost of a new stadium can be quite staggering these days, it is worthwhile to enhance campus lifestyles. But until we have a change in attitude toward the value of school spirit and practice it in our everyday lives at the University, there is no 100 percent guarantee that the present situation will improve and that Gophers football will be able to regain its cult status at the University.

At present, it is not practical to demand a stadium on campus, especially given the lingering issues that have surrounded the whole proposal from its beginning. Unless the Dome is deemed unfit to host Gopher football games, I do not think the University really needs a new stadium. I just hope everyone will still be able to demonstrate fierce, intense and passionate support of our football team. Maybe then we could have a new stadium on campus, when it is afforded, needed and wanted by all.

Hafidz Ismail is a University sophomore majoring in information technology. Send letters to the editor to [email protected]